As we advance further into these post-modern times, technology keeps on accelerating the velocity of our lives. With all this constant flux, it has become increasingly difficult to stop for a moment and recognize the beauty around us. Chicago-based photographer Andrew Klass has made a career of capturing stunning photos of scenes that others might simply overlook. His specialty is shooting craft beverages (mostly coffee-based), and his compelling images will make you want to head to your local barista for a delicious caffeine fix. At Style.No.Chaser, we’re all about exploring the diverse lifestyles of creative individuals all over the world. Find out more about Andrew below.
“I like to present the products as honestly as possible …”
How did you get into the niche field of craft beverage and product photography?
I can definitely tell you it was not where I expected my career to go. I just found myself really appreciating these products from a consumer standpoint. As I made more and more friends in the specialty/craft beverage industry, the more I learned about how much hard work, knowledge and skill is required to create this product that so many take for granted. I began just documenting these products and posting them on Instagram or wherever I could. Then one day, while on a trip in Nashville, I got some drinks with a few wonderful folks from Barista Parlor. We had a long talk about life, its meaning, and finding your focus. It was after that conversation that I knew this is what I wanted to do.
Would you call it a lucrative field to be in?
When it comes to creative fields, especially freelancing, it takes a lot of hard work and time for it to become lucrative. You have to prove yourself before anyone is ready to pay out real money for your work. Fortunately, I’ve known this for most of my life so it wasn’t the reason I got into it. My intention was to be a vehicle for these people/companies to showcase their work in ways they previously haven’t been able to.
Did you have any formal training to hone your photography skills or are you self-taught?
I have studied visual art since I was a child. Everything I learned in the process influences what I do today and how I do it – from my studies in oil painting at the University of Iowa, to learning all about advertising art direction at Columbia College Chicago. Once I applied all of this knowledge to photography, the rest came rather easily. From there it was just getting out in the field and learning through application. The field is the best classroom that exists.
What publications do you regularly work with and what other platforms/publications do you hope to see your work in?
My work has most recently been seen in The Chicagoist and The Coffee Compass. I’ve been too busy since then because Intelligentsia Coffee hired me exclusively for an amazing position as their photographer.
At this point in time, the “artisanal” and “craft” tags have become completely overused. How do you differentiate your work from all the cliche brands/vibes flooding the market?
Trends are always an interesting thing to work around or with. I stay true to my own voice and try not to fall into currently popular styles. I like to present the products as honestly as possible. “This is literally the latte you can drink in the space you can drink it.” That’s why I stray from shooting in a studio. I want to give the viewer an honest experience. The over-saturation of these buzzwords causes them to lose their meaning. I strive to show people what their true meanings are.
What would you say are your favorite craft beers and specialty coffees at the moment?
I’m lucky enough to live in Chicago, which is killing it in both regards right now. Locally, I’m loving Solemn Oath Brewery, Half Acre and Marz Brewing. As for coffee, there are so many great options. You can always find me at one of Intelligentsia’s locations, The Wormhole (serving Halfwit Coffee), Gaslight Coffee Roasters, Groundswell Coffee Roasters, Caffe Streets, Big Shoulders Coffee, or La Colombe. We have an amazing coffee community out here and I’m lucky to have made so many friends in it.
What’s a busy week like in the life of Andrew Klass?
Lots and lots of coffee and even more photo-taking. A good example of a busy week for me would be one I had a little over a month ago. First couple days spent shooting coffee here in Chicago. Then I flew to New York City for about 30 hours to shoot there. Then back home to shoot a friend’s wedding before a much needed weekend. As crazy and exhausting as weeks like that are, nothing makes me feel more fulfilled.
Since this is a style publication, how would you describe your own sense of fashion/style?
I would describe my style as “90’s Lumberjack”. A lot of denim (cuffed, torn, dip-dyed) mixed with a healthy amount of plaid/flannel and always in my Doc Martens 1460s.
What keeps you inspired and excited to wake up each morning and create?
I just love the industry I work in. It is filled with nothing but passionate, hard-working people. Intelligentsia just sent me to Guatemala to document their amazing annual event, the Extraordinary Coffee Workshop. There I met and talked with coffee farmers and producers from around the world. One of the local farmers from Acatenango, Guatemala told me how important my work is to him, his family and their 100 year old farm. He said that my representation and exposure of their work to the world is what keeps them going. That conversation was enough inspiration to last me a lifetime. I will never forget that.
Lastly, what new projects and endeavors are you planning for the new year?
I have a few things up my sleeve in the coming year. Keep a look out for things that will be in print, such as a secret book, a zine and a few others. 2016 is looking to be very exciting.
To keep up with Andrew’s photography, click here.
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